Hawthorne Street residents oppose retail project

More than a dozen res­id­ents of the 6100 block of Hawthorne St. at­ten­ded last week’s May­fair Civic As­so­ci­ation meet­ing to fight a new dol­lar store and auto parts store pro­posed for a nearby block of Frank­ford Av­en­ue. Those neigh­bors also got a les­son on the some­times puzz­ling dy­nam­ics of the city’s re­cently re­worked Re­gistered Com­munity Or­gan­iz­a­tion reg­u­la­tions.

The Hawthorne Street folks wanted to vote against the pro­ject, but they couldn’t be­cause they’re not al­lowed to be mem­bers of the May­fair Civic group. Tech­nic­ally, their block is mar­gin­ally out­side the civic as­so­ci­ation’s stated bound­ar­ies, while the com­mer­cial prop­erty in ques­tion — which now houses DeSi­mone Mit­subishi — is just in­side those bound­ar­ies.

The Hawthorne Street res­id­ences share a prop­erty line with the car deal­er­ship and would likely be most af­fected by any re­devel­op­ment there. Yet, the May­fair as­so­ci­ation was the RCO se­lec­ted to host the de­velopers’ present­a­tion.

While May­fair Civic Pres­id­ent Donny Smith ul­ti­mately tabled a vote on the mat­ter, he and the group’s zon­ing chair­man, Joe De­Fe­lice, as­sured the neigh­bors that they have a right to in­ter­vene in the zon­ing case des­pite not vot­ing as part of the May­fair as­so­ci­ation. De­Fe­lice re­com­men­ded that they align them­selves with an­oth­er civic group, such as the North­east Qual­ity of Life Co­ali­tion or the Wissi­nom­ing Civic As­so­ci­ation. Or they might form their own group to fight the pro­ject.

Bala Cyn­wyd-based Mo­re­land De­vel­op­ment has ap­plied for city per­mits to build the new stores. Eric Seidman, a prin­cip­al in Mo­re­land, told res­id­ents that his com­pany is un­der agree­ment to buy the car deal­er­ship at 6101-37 Frank­ford Ave. and to raze it. Mo­re­land plans to build a Dol­lar Tree store and an Auto­Zone store on the 1.65-acre prop­erty.

Im­me­di­ate neigh­bors think it’s a ter­rible idea. The area is already con­ges­ted with traffic, see­ing as it’s mere yards from the busy in­ter­sec­tion of Frank­ford and Har­bison av­en­ues. Fur­ther, the de­veloper pro­poses to build an en­trance on Hawthorne Street, a one-way street lined with well-kept row­houses. The curb cut would be right next to the en­trance to the res­id­ents’ rear drive­way. Seidman and his en­gin­eers said that de­liv­ery vehicles would use the Hawthorne en­trance, ac­cord­ing to their plans.

Res­id­ents ar­gued that the pat­rons and de­liv­ery vehicles would jeop­ard­ize the safety of chil­dren whose fam­il­ies live on the block. Fur­ther, they fear that Auto­Zone cus­tom­ers would park on their block while work­ing on their vehicles.

“Why do you need to bring com­mer­cial traffic onto a res­id­en­tial street?” one frus­trated man asked.

“We’re go­ing to need an en­trance on Hawthorne,” Seidman said.

The same man fur­ther ar­gued that the stores would re­main open late in­to the even­ing, fur­ther dis­turb­ing res­id­ents, while of­fer­ing low-pay­ing jobs.

The de­veloper noted that the prop­erty is zoned com­mer­cial already, so he could build a store there as a mat­ter of right, without a zon­ing hear­ing. Un­der his cur­rent plan, however, the city’s Zon­ing Board would have to grant him a “spe­cial ex­cep­tion” for the sale of auto parts on the site. Also, the board will hear ar­gu­ments re­gard­ing the Auto­Zone’s set­back. Un­der the cur­rent plan, the store would be too close to the prop­erty line at the corner of Hawthorne and Dever­eaux Av­en­ue. Seidman said that his plans could be mod­i­fied to in­crease the set­back.

In an in­form­al show of hands, Hawthorne Street res­id­ents in­dic­ated they op­posed the plan as is. Some said they’d be will­ing to ne­go­ti­ate re­stric­tions on the pro­ject in ex­change for their ap­prov­al. Smith and De­Fe­lice agreed to post­pone a form­al May­fair Civic vote pending a fol­low-up meet­ing in­volving the im­me­di­ate neigh­bors and de­velopers. The spe­cial zon­ing meet­ing will be on June 23 at 7 p.m. at May­fair Com­munity Cen­ter, 2990 Saint Vin­cent St. ••

You can reach at wkenny@bsmphilly.com.

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